What do you want to see from Diablo 4?
Before I get started, no, I have heard nothing about a Diablo 4. This isn’t a hint or a tease — I have no inside information and no announcements, just a burning desire for a Diablo 4 to come out. That’s all it takes, really. I’ve really enjoyed Diablo 3 and gotten a lot of fun playtime out of it, and I’d like to see Sanctuary make a return and advance the story of the setting.
But the Diablo franchise is a big deal. There are a lot of players out there with fond memories of the first two installments and the argument between those who are staunch Diablo 2 partisans and those that prefer Diablo 3 has long split the fanbase. So if we’re going to do this, we really should hope to see it done right — we need a Diablo game that holds up the standard for the most famous dungeon crawl RPG ever released. So what do we want? What should Diablo 4 look like?
I have some ideas.
The Diablo DNA must be obvious
What do I mean by saying that the DNA of the Diablo series must be obvious? Well, for starters, we can’t have missteps like the Real Money Auction House. Loot and grinding for loot is the heart and corrupted demonic soul of this franchise. You go out, you kill monsters, you get loot that makes you stronger so you can fight harder monsters for better loot and this repeats. There can’t be any getting around this — it’s got to be a core part of the game from the beginning.
Also, this is a game where demons invade people’s thoughts and transform them into monsters, where powerful heroes wage war against literal armies of foes. Diablo’s Sanctuary is a world constantly on the brink of ruin where heroes who are effectively demigods start off strong and get much, much stronger. We want to see more of that. The game must preserve the feeling of seeing dozens of creatures coming your way and preparing to show them the door back to the Burning Hells. Power creep isn’t a problem here — it’s necessary. By max level you need to be comfortable with fighting huge bosses or literal armies of monstrosities and painting the walls, floor and even ceiling with their gore.
Above all else, Diablo 4 needs to feel like a Diablo game.
Make the leap to the next stage in storytelling
One place Diablo has always kind of lagged behind is in its story. I like Diablo‘s lore but I’m still a little irritated by how things often seem to just stop or be left as loose ends, and Diablo 3 didn’t really fix that. It answered some really big ones — what happened when Tyrael destroyed the Worldstone, for example — but then introduced some huge new ones, like who is Dirgest or what happened to Leah’s soul or did all seven of the Evils escape the Black Soulstone or is it just Diablo as the Prime Evil. Frankly, all of that needs to be addressed.
The franchise started in 1996. For comparison, Baldur’s Gate was released in 1998 and Fallout was released in 1997. Both of those games changed the way narrative storytelling in RPG’s unfolded, and there have been plenty of other games that did the same, more than I could comfortably list here. The Diablo storytelling formula really hasn’t progressed as much as it could have — yes, Diablo 3 had some cool cutscenes and cinematics, but we really need to see some of the past two decades in CRPG storytelling at least nodded to in the next game.
We definitely need answers to all the loose threads from Diablo 3 in the next game. And while we’re at it, a bit more option in terms of the personality of your character would be welcome. It’s the 21st century, let’s make these characters actual characters.
Bring back classic classes and add new ones
There have been three Diablo games by now, and in each game we’ve seen new classes introduced. Some classes have proved popular — the Barbarian and Necromancer have each been in two of those games, for example. Also, some classes like the Crusader seem like reworks of older classes: Crusaders are very similar to Paladins, and we can trace a line of descent from the Diablo Sorcerer to the Diablo 2 Sorceress to the Diablo 3 Wizard.
Now, as a result, some classes don’t really make sense to bring back. Warrior, Sorcerer, and Rogue from Diablo have effectively been superseded by later classes — the Barbarian does the Warrior role but better, for example. But that still leaves us with Barbarians, Paladins, Monks, Witch Doctors, Necromancers, Wizards, Amazons, Assassins, Druids, and Demon Hunters, plus possibly Crusaders if you’re comfortable with two Holy Warrior classes in one game. I personally feel like Crusaders and Paladins are different enough that you could have them both.
That’s up to eleven classes, and that’s a lot. But I feel like up to now Diablo has been a mite too conservative with classes and leaving them to expansions instead of having them on release. That could definitely be fixed.
Give us a lot more gear variety
The game needs more variety in gear. We want more unique and named gear, more sets, more legendaries with distinctive origins and backstories. We want more items that come from a specific source, like a particular boss or dungeon.
The game revolves around collecting mountain of loot, but it gets disappointing when you get a weapon, but since it’s not the Ancient Legendary version of that weapon, you have to keep farming for the exact same weapon instead of possibly getting an entirely new weapon that’s better than the one you have. I want less “okay, you looted the Immortal King’s Boulder Breaker, but it’s not an Ancient Legendary, so you disenchant it” and more drops you’ve never seen before and have to figure out if it’s good or not.
Update the art style
I’m not saying abandon the top down, mouse click world of Diablo. It’s worked for three games and if we deviate too far people won’t recognize the result as Diablo. But it’s well past time to make the next game look really good, with high res character models and the ability to zoom way in and otherwise look at your character in all that gear you’ve been farming for.
I’ll also be honest — I wouldn’t mind if you could choose what your character looks like a bit more. It’s Sanctuary, so you’re going to be a human, but being able to choose height, build, hair color, whether or not you have facial hair… this all feels like it could be done by this point.
Forget everything I just said
Now that I’ve talked about what I want to see in a restrained, realistic sense, I’ll talk about what I’d want in my dream Diablo 4 — a game that keeps the first part (making it feel as much like Diablo as possible) but which abandons a lot of core concepts for the Diablo series.
We’ve had three games of action-adventure RPG dungeon crawling. I love that, and I do want to see more of it. But I wish that there’d be an effort to put more game between that — a game where, at long last, your hero does more than simply react to yet another scheme by the Prime Evils. Imagine a Diablo game that stole from other RPG’s with the same verve and passion that Breath of the Wild did — a game that retained its Zelda heart but managed an enormous open world to explore and adventure in while it did so? A Diablo game that sent you all over Sanctuary, let you really make changes to the world and actually take preemptive, preventative action to stop Diablo and the minions of the Hells and potentially even fight the arrogant angels of the Angiris Council for the fate of the world? A game that literally stole liberally from Skyrim, from Mass Effect, from Shadows of Mordor and beyond, while still keeping true to the gear treadmill and monster exploding fun that is Diablo?
That’s what I want for the franchise. That’s what I want in the next Diablo.
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